Fact or Myth: Is Farmed Salmon Toxic?

This is a FACT.

Eat a serving of salmon and you get a hefty helping of iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, vitamins B12 and 6, and a wealth of other essential nutrients. If you’re eating farmed salmon, however, chances are you’re also getting a host of contaminants, such as antibiotics, hormones, PCBs, dioxins, neurotoxins, and pesticides.

Salmon fillet with parsleyThe Folly of Farm-raised Salmon

Fish farmers contaminate salmon with tainted fish oils and feed, and treat salmon with antibiotics to ensure health. These overused antibiotics and toxins transfer to us with every bite.

One study found that North Atlantic farm-raised salmon had as much as eight times the concentration of contaminants that wild-caught salmon did. The Journal of Nutrition reported that farmed salmon had PCBs 10 times that of wild, and according to research conducted by the Environmental Working Group, farmed salmon in U.S. grocery stores has 16 times the concentration of contaminants, including dioxins and PCBs. Dioxins are a proven human carcinogen, and women with high concentrations of PCBs are at an increased risk of having a baby with neurological problems.

Wild Salmon vs. Farmed Salmon

It’s good to go wild, especially from a nutritional standpoint. Wild salmon has 32% fewer calories and half the fat of farmed salmon. Eat wild and you get more calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, and protein, and less sodium. Farm-raised fish, on the other hand, has three times the amount of saturated fat and twice as much pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid. Wild salmon is also exposed to fewer toxins because it collects food from a variety of ocean sources (0.17 parts per billion as opposed to 1.88 parts per billion!).

The problem with eating wild salmon is that our resources are running low. According to a recent article in the Washington Post, about 2 billion pounds of salmon are harvested each year. Divide that amount by the 7 billion people who inhabit Earth, and you have a measly one serving of salmon per year!

If You Must Eat Farmed Salmon…

Since 2004, fish farmers have supposedly been cleaning up their act. For the last decade the World Wildlife Fund has worked alongside the fish industry to develop a set of standards that salmon farmers must follow to meet ASC certification. Ninety-one pages of 100 ASC standards were released this past June. To date, 15 salmon farms have pledged to meet these standards by 2020.

In the meantime, try to stick with wild salmon as much as possible. And if you must eat farm-raised fish (the benefits of which still currently outweigh the risks), then be sure to remove the skin, which absorbs the most pollutants.